Are you more traditional or flexible in how you make decisions about staffing?        


Flexible staffing models have always been popular with Northwest employers.  The bigs in our environment, Microsoft, Amazon, Google – all relied heavily on flexible staffing models as a way to grow fast and still manage to the ups and downs of their business landscape.  The bigs taught many Northwest employers how to do flexible staffing and take advantage of the benefits these models had to offer.

As neither good or bad, we’ve recently seen the use of flexible staffing take a back seat to more traditional staffing models.  The temporary staffing industry, for example, is reporting usage declines of 10-30% depending on the segment of temporary staffing market being reviewed.  The recruiting side of the staffing industry that supports more traditional staffing models,  is reporting gains.  Historically that has not been the case for economies where there are a lot of unknowns and the business landscape is uncertain.  Not the case now.

With lay offs, hiring freezes, and new technologies targeted to scale back new employee hiring, we’re starting to wonder if now isn’t the time for Northwest employers will begin to turn to more flexible ways to staff their organizations – to get work done.   We wondered outloud aobut that walking into 2023, and learned that we were probably too over our skis.  We think we need to keep wondering as we walk into 2024.

This blog is being written to help our readers get a better understanding of both traditional and flexible staffing models are all about – what beliefs and assumptions tend to drive an employer to use one model or another, or, as in most cases, some combination of both! 

The Back Story….

After the pandemic turned so many businesses upside down, pre pandemic staffing strategies were deep sixed.  Worker shortages created angst for employers who were looking to get the people side of their business back to some version of normal.   While historically companies look for  ways to leverage their people costs when economies struggle.  The difference between what has been historically true compared to what has been happening recently, is that not only are companies dealing with economic uncertainty but they also are facing a time with very low workforce participation rates.  Throughout 2022 and a lot of 2023, employers had to look long and hard for every employee they hired.

Traditional Staffing Models Go With the Flow!  

Prior to 2020, most if not all Northwest companies were enjoying the predictability of robust growth – a time of robust hiring.  This was a time when traditional staffing models served employers well.  When business grew, new employees were hired.  And if that growth turned into something predictable, companies often added people even before there was an actual need, creating safety nets against staffing shortages so they were never left short handed.

Employers who rely on traditional staffing models, tend to make  hiring i.e. adding to staff, a pretty quick reaction to many of their business challenges.  If an employee left, they were quickly replaced.  If the company grew, an employee would be added to staff.  And yes, it was as simple as that.

The problem with this model is that when or if growth subsides, companies can quickly get over staffed – the unfortunately downside of just going with the flow which was the essence of the problem with our technology sector in 2023.  Big tech companies had staffed up big time either during covid or immediately after to deal with new demands, only to have to lay off once reality set in.

There is nothing like a sustained period of growth to create organizational excitement – new employees get hired;  current employees get promoted.  Everyone is happy!   But when its time to right size, traditional staffing models don’t play out so well.  You can re org, adjust  job descriptions, give people new things to do all you want, but at some point the company will hunker down, because it has to and the destruction to the people side of these businesses often plays out for years after.       

Flexible Staffing Strategies – A Better Way? 

Employers who embrace flexible staffing models, tend to  manage growth, change, and the ups and downs of business cycles very differently.  A flexible staffing strategy is one where a company relies on a healthy mix of core and non-core workers (not always employees) while using temporary/interim/flexible resources to scale up or down in alignment with the company’s business needs.

The stated intent of a flexible staffing model is to stay  permanently right sized and limit fixed commitments to all workers other than a key group of employees they consider core.  

Using a flexible staffing strategy, a variety of “flexible” workers are brought in to supplement the core workers.  These workers may or may not be employed directly, and are often obtained thru staffing agencies like PACE Staffing Network, as self employed 1099 workers, or as vendors who are hired to outsource work that a business chose not to develop in house.

Work that has to be done, but not considered key to its mission, is often outsourced, allowing a business to ramp up or down quickly without having to embark on aggressive hiring campaigns or lay offs.    

The kind of staffing solutions that fall under the FLEXIBLE STAFFING umbrella are many and varied.

These are all examples of ways to get work done while containing commitments to long term work arrangements.  When the employer partners with a third party staffing agency they can also off load the hidden costs, liabilities, and regulatory hassles associated with “being the employer”

FLEXIBLE STAFFING strategies are built around the premise that change is inevitable, dynamic and potentially destructive, and that the ability to adjust quickly to change is key to an organization’s survival.   

The companies we have helped with their flexible staffing strategies have tended to earn their competitive advantage by…..

Companies who have gotten good at outsourcing a lot of non critical work functions not only reduce their internal costs, but are able to tap into high levels of expertise they could not develop on their own.

We’ve also seen that employers who embrace flexibility as a business principle are very attractive to these flexible employees.  As a side bar, they also do a much better job of protecting their core employees from unwelcomed lay offs and right sizings. 

Should you be thinking about ways to introduce some form of staffing flexibility to your organization?   

In  companion blog we’ve provided a list of questions you can ask yourself to assess your readiness to give FLEXIBILITY a try. 


How PACE Can Help! 

If you would be interested in learning more about flexible staffing strategies and the many ways you can use staffing flexibility as a way to get a step ahead of your competitors, we would be glad to help you assess the current state of your staffing flexibility compared to other Northwest businesses.  We can also suggest some ideas for incorporating more flexible staffing solutions into your current staffing mix.

Traditional staffing models have their place and will continue to be embraced for some time to come.  But with so many factors in the economy suggesting ongoing uncertainty, now is the time for some employers to look outside what is to see what can be.  We’re here to help!


PACE Staffing Network is one of the Puget Sound’s premier staffing /recruiting agencies and has been helping Northwest employers find and hire employees based on the “right fit” for over 45 years.

A 5-time winner of the coveted “Best in Staffing” designation , PACE is ranked in the top 2% of staffing agencies nationwide based on annual surveys of customer satisfaction.

PACE services include temporary and contract staffing, temp to hire auditions, direct hire professional recruiting services, Employer of Record (payroll) services, and a large menu of candidate assessment services our clients can purchase a la carte.

To learn more about how partnering with PACE will make a difference to how you find and hire the employees you need,  contact our Partner Services and Solutions team at 425-637-3312, email us or complete the form below!

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